One Week in and Camp Feels Great

Take a minute and think of your favorite band. Maybe yours isn’t a band, per se, but a musical artist that can put on a great performance. After all, bands and artists bring the same songs to life show after show, but the conditions around them — the set list, the venue, the audience, the band members on stage — change, and thus each show is different.

We think the comparison to seeing live music is a useful way to think about summer camp in action. Hear us out please! Each session has a slightly different band on stage (i.e. our coaches and team), a different audience at the show (i.e. the campers and CITs), and a varied set of songs played (i.e. the evening activities, Explorations, IT challenges, and nightly Devotions). Because camp, similar to a great concert, is particularly dynamic and responsive to what campers and cabins need on a given day, each session’s experience bends, evolves, and heads in (beautifully) unexpected directions over the course of two weeks together.

With one week under our belts, it is fair to say that Session 2 of 2021 is shaping up to be one epic concert. Here is a bit about why we feel this way as a team:

  • Returning campers have been outstanding and are leading. It is so humbling to see campers who have been here 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 years stepping up and driving the culture of camp. It’s like having super fans across camp who know every word to every song (because, in a real sense, the DO know every word to every camp song). There would be no Live Oak without their energy, enthusiasm, and care for camp.
  • New campers have jumped right in and are thriving. It requires tremendous bravery to come to camp for the first time, and this session we have seen campers from ages 8-13 join in and become a part of camp immediately. Of course we’ve had the predictable homesickness in the first few days of camp. But, it seems to have melted away more quickly than ever this session as the fun and excitement of camp launched into gear.
  • The evening activity schedule has been just the right set list. Speaking of fun and excitement, we were forced to shift our evening programming on night 1 due to an early evening thunderstorm. In past years when our opening campfire was rained out, we would have gathered in the Chateaux (the dining hall) and had an all-camp “indoor campfire” to set the mood for the session. Given our COVID restrictions, this wasn’t an option. Instead we adjusted the set list and had a super fun game night outdoors. To stick with the concert comparison, this was a bit like opening Session 2’s concert with an up tempo, active, get-out-of-your-seat-and-dance sort of tune instead of the typical opening campfire’s relaxed and reflective vibe. This change launched our session out of a cannon from that first night, giving campers a chance to build relationships through fun and get a bit physically exhausted so that they slept better on night 1. From there the concert has been off to the races, with a fast-paced tempo and a great sequence of evening activities night after night.
  • Small moments of conflict, when resolved artfully by our team members, bring power and meaning to camp. The whole point of Live Oak is for a diverse community of outstanding young people to grow individually and collectively, thus building a network of our city’s future leaders. This happens in the context of 12 young people sharing space, working together, and bumping up against real human conflict. Fortunately, our coaches are there to support campers when their cabin has small disagreements during cabin cleanup, an IT challenge, or cabin skit night. A great story isn’t great without some conflict to make it interesting; and, healthy conflict that emerges and leads to growth is exactly what you find in a cabin of young people over the course of 14 days together.
  • The weather has been great, and even when it has rained we’ve made the most of it. Though we know you all have been getting lots of rain in New Orleans, our week was relatively dry. We have embraced the moments of rain and gotten the very most out of our days together, irrespective of the weather. Next week looks a bit rainier, but that won’t stop us from enjoying campout night, cookouts, and plenty of other fun activities in store.

We hope those reflections from camp leave you feeling like this session has the potential to be an unforgettable show.

To close, there are a few of us oldies on staff who are fans of the Grateful Dead. (Shout out in particular to Claire, as well as Claire’s parents Tim and Diane who have joined us to do hundreds of loads of laundry this session at camp!!!) As we’ve seeded the idea that this could be a really magical session/concert, a running joke has developed that this session *could be* Cornell 1977, widely considered to be one of the Grateful Dead’s greatest performances. There’s even a call and response at evening activities: Cornell, 77! Jokes aside, this feels like a moment when our campers are modeling Bravery, Awareness, and Kindness; are jumping right into activities and having a blast; and are showing what the magic of camp can look like now that we are all back together, in person, in a place that they love so deeply.

Here’s to a great end of Session 2!